Colorado Pro-Life Groups Challenge Campaign Finance Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 4, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Colorado Pro-Life Groups Challenge Campaign Finance Law

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 4, 2003

Denver, CO ( — Last week, two Colorado pro-life groups filed a lawsuit against Amendment 27, a campaign finance law passed by Colorado voters in 2002.

Colorado Right to Life and Colorado Citizens for Responsible Government, both statewide pro-life organizations, have stopped some of their election activities for fear of violating the new laws.

The amendment requires any organization that disseminates campaign materials to disclose the sources of their contributions if the literature is distributed before an election. Amendment 27 also limits individual contributions to $200 for legislative races and $500 for statewide campaigns per cycle.

In the suit, both groups say the law is a violation of their right to free speech. It would also violate the privacy of donors who give money to the organization.

Jim Bopp, a leading pro-life attorney representing the groups, says the law unconstitutionally regulating groups that distribute election materials 30 or 60 days prior to a primary or general election regardless of whether the mention of the
candidate’s name is part of a call to vote for or against that candidate.

"Worse yet, some organizations are completely banned from making such communications simply because the group has chosen to be a non-profit corporation rather than remain an unincorporated organization of like-minded individuals," Bopp explains.

The Supreme Court has previously drawn the line between "express advocacy" that urges the election or defeat of a candidate and "issue advocacy" which supports or opposes legislation or educates about the stands candidates take on issues without supporting or opposing them. According to Bopp, Amendment 27 unconstitutionally regulates issue advocacy conducted by the pro-life groups as express advocacy.

Bopp’s firm previously challenged Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act because of similar concerns as to how it unfairly regulated the election activities of pro-life groups.

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that law was unconstitutional.